Monday, September 06, 2010

The Story Behind Labor Day

On Saturday I heard a talk show host going on a rant about Labor Day and how it should really be called Socialist Day because that is what’s being celebrated. Needless to say I thought this guy had lost his mind, but I decided to look up the origins of the Labor Day national holiday and here is what I found.

From Wikipedia
The first Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882 in New York City, by the Central Labor Union of New York, the nation's first integrated major trade union.[1] It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.[2] The September date originally chosen by the CLU of NY and observed by many of the nation's trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers' Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair, for which it had been observed to commemorate.[3] All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.

The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties. Speeches or political demonstrations are more low-key than May 1 Labor Day celebrations in most countries, although events held by labor organizations often feature political themes and appearances by candidates for office, especially in election years. Forms of celebration include picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, water sports, and public art events. Families with school-age children take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer recess. Similarly, some teenagers and young adults view it as the last weekend for parties before returning to school, although school starting times now vary.

Color me crazy, but I don’t see anything there that signifies Labor Day as being a day to celebrate or glorify socialism. Is it celebrating labor unions and the affects that they have had on our country? Absolutely. But the better question…why would that be a bad thing? Despite what many labor unions have become, they have a heritage that is worth celebrating and have helped bring about many advances in making the workplace a safe and better place for all Americans. Why shouldn’t that be celebrated?

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